Marine: John Arnold No. 176

Discussion in 'Chronometers' started by tick talk, Nov 22, 2018.

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  1. tick talk

    tick talk Registered User

    Sep 16, 2008
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    I was recently visiting the Vancouver Maritime Museum to research the ship St. Roch and found a very interesting piece in their collection. John Arnold marine chronometer no.176 was used by Captain George Vancouver from 1791 to 1795 when he charted the northwest coast of North America.

    IMG_1692 copy.JPG

    Although the placard next to this historic timekeeper is woefully lacking details and the display itself rather underwhelming, there are some interesting notes in the book "From Maps to Metaphors: The Pacific World of George Vancouver". The editors state that A176 was one of 82 made, of which 15 survive. It has a Z-type balance and scratched on the inner great wheel is "Cleaned and jewelled in 1791 Finished by Mr Jeffries". The "1" seems to have been added later than the "76" of the movement's serial number.

    IMG_1693 copy.JPG

    After Vancouver returned the chronometer to the Admiralty, it went to Australia with Matthew Flinders, and later accompanied William Bligh in 1806 when he went to take up the governorship of New South Wales. It was last recorded at London in 1850 when sent to Frodsham’s for repairs, then disappeared until 1981 when the Vancouver Maritime Museum purchased it at auction from Christie's.

    An article published before the sale in the London Guardian revealed the chronometer was originally purchased from Arnold in 1791 for £84. Arnold overhauled it in 1795 for £32 and change. After Bligh was booted from NSW, the Admiralty wrote to him asking for the chronometer but there is no record of a reply. The article stated that it “recently” turned up in England in working order and was offered by a private seller who wished to remain anonymous.

    The Vancouver Sun newspaper took up the story in 2007 when they featured the museum director who brought the timepiece home. After collecting more than $100,000 from various government and private sources, Mr. Inglis travelled to London for the auction. Turned out the heavy bidders, besides himself, was a telephone bidder from Germany and another from Australia represented in the audience by an agent. The action was lighting fast and in less than a minute Inglis’ bid equalling $89,000 won; the highest price paid for a chronometer at the time. The British government initially blocked export for a few months but eventually it made its way to the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
     
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  2. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

    Jul 26, 2015
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    Never seen such an early one, it has the chapter ring style of a verge fusee dial clock of the period.
     
  3. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    Aug 24, 2000
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    Great story! It seems the piece has found its appropriate home since it was part of the creation of the land where it resides.
     
  4. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

    Mar 4, 2003
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    Beautiful Chronometer and great story. Interesting that at that time it wasn't considered necessary to have a lock between the center and lower sections. Very simple box with unfigured mahogany and magnificent dovetails. A little later J. R.'s boxes had double blind dovetail joinery with figured mahogany. Competition brought that on maybe? What do you suppose it would bring at auction today?
    Paul
     
  5. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    There is a bit more detail on this very chronometer in Whitney's "The Ship Chronometer" on page 245. Interesting to note that it sold for 39,600 pounds on 11/25, 1981. That would be $50,829.12 in USD today. The exchange rate must have been quite different back in '81 to have cost "$89,000."
    Paul
     
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  6. tick talk

    tick talk Registered User

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    Thanks for the Whitney reference, never thought to look there. The photos are very helpful. That price just confirms the newspaper article must have been referencing Canadian dollars.
     

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